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July 3, 2007

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DVD of the Week – A Haiku for Desperado (1995)

by JAMES BRIGHAM

Commentary Track prides itself on its writers’ ability to see a wide range of films from all kinds of genres and eras. Sadly, our capacity for filmic intake is finite as we are not a collection of near-omnipotent extraterrestrial Watchers. Given the limitations of current human technology, we’re forced to occasionally recommend older DVD releases rather than write about new movies that none of us have seen (which today includes Driving Lessons, Puccini for Beginners, and The Taste of Tea).

Perhaps someday Commentary Track will advance to the point that all movies will fall under a blanket of universal awareness. Until that time, there’s a copious backlog of established fare for us to utilize with DVD of the Week, including Robert Rodriguez’s exquisite Mexican shoot-em-up Desperado.

Desperado is a sequel / remake of Rodriguez’s independent directorial debut, El Mariachi. Antonio Banderas plays the titular character, a mysterious ex-musician on a path of vengeance against the gang who murdered the woman he loved. Aiding him on this journey is a sardonic sidekick named Buscemi (played by, get this, Steve Buscemi!) and Carolina (Salma Hayek), a cheerful bookstore owner who gets wrapped up in the escapade due to serendipity.

This film is a hoot and a half with quotable lines, striking set design, and copious actions sequences. Rodriguez’s style is equal parts Sam Peckinpah and John Woo with a heavy dose of crazy visual inventiveness. His flair with the cinematic dramatic allows the Mariachi to utter overwrought dialogue in an entirely believable way. Otherwise cheesy lines like “Give me the strength to be what I was, and forgive me for what I am,” are wholly acceptable after watching the hero blaze through a bar of mooks beneath a roaring southwestern rock soundtrack. In fact, my unabashed love of this movie has inspired me to pen a haiku:

Salma Hayek’s hot.
Hotter than the explosions.
Dual pistol action.

This special edition DVD retails for around $15 but can often be found for a steal at big name retailers – I bought my copy at Target for $6. It includes a “first look” at the follow-up, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, animated menus, director and cast filmographies, and shrink-wrapping. More interestingly, Desperado features an informative commentary from director, Robert Rodriguez, one of the most famous examples of do-it-yourself filmmaking leading to big studio stardom. Inclusions like his 10 Minute Film School segments – here featuring the anatomy of a shootout – give hope to a legion of wannabe directors by offering useful advice.

New release this week: Driving Lessons


1 Comment Post a comment
  1. Miriam
    Jul 12 2007

    Desperado was hugely entertaining in the theater, just a movie with some fun scenes when seen on the home screen. What’s not to like about the extended shaggy dog story of an opening or lots of blazing action under a Mexican sun? But the bravura flair of some scenes vanishes when shrunk in the smaller scale. A scene with Banderas walking down the middle of a dusty street crowded with people, animals, carts, all in motion and all bathed in gorgeous golden light was breathtakingly beautiful seen on the big screen. On my TV it went almost unnoticed. People who just wait for the DVD to come out don’t know what they’re missing.

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